She’s the queer feminist artist who turned Donald Trump’s penis into a viral sensation. But Ilma Gore’s infamous “Make America Great Again” drawing isn’t meant to mock the Republican presidential nominee. It’s to get people to think about why they react to it that way.
“As soon as you see it, you either laugh or you get angry,” Gore told NBC OUT.
Gore’s drawing, currently on display at Maddox Gallery in London, depicts a naked, jeering Trump with a micropenis (Gore actually painted Trump’s face onto the body of a friend who posed for the piece). She said she wanted to show people how wrong it is to equate genitalia size with masculinity by depicting Trump, often seen as very manly, with a small member.
“Laughing at it is actually part of the problem,” she said. “In actual fact, if I drew him with a massive c--k, he would be no different.”
Genitals do not define people, according to Gore.
“I don’t believe in gender," she said. "I believe masculinity and femininity are strong ideologies that exist without the genders female or male, and genitals mean nothing other [than for] reproduction."
The 24-year-old originally posted the image on Facebook in February, and she said it was shared more than 50 million times. Her Facebook account was subsequently shut down multiple times after the post went up, and she said someone filed a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice in response to the drawing.
“I didn’t violate anyone’s copyright, because it’s my own work,” Gore said.
The DMCA was filed anonymously, according to Gore, but she also said someone claiming to be from Trump’s team called her and told her to take the image down or face legal ramifications. NBC OUT reached out to Trump’s press office for comment but has yet to receive a response.
“For almost three months I’ve been dealing with this,” Gore said. She also said some Trump supporters have threatened her over the image.
“I’ve gotten thousands of death threats from my email. My Facebook page. Every social media outlet I still get harassed.”
“No [gallery] would show the artwork in America,” she added. “I had to go to London to show it.”
The controversial Australian-American artist, who lives in Los Angeles, has become well known since the image went viral. In May, Gore posted a picture of herself with a black eye on Instagram. In it, she alleged a Trump supporter got out of a car and punched her while she was walking near her home.
Some believe the artist’s claims are a hoax, but Gore has denied those allegations. An LAPD officer told NBC OUT a report of the incident is on file and there is an ongoing investigation.
“In a really f—ed up way I’m kind of proud one of my paintings made someone feel something enough to want to punch me,” she said.
A common theme in Gore’s work is the human body and how it’s perceived. In fact, she’s been turning her own body into “The Human Canvas.” Gore is crowdfunding over 3,000 people to give her tattoo ideas, each conveying something personal about the individual who submitted it. She plans to display her body in a museum every five years until she dies.
“The idea is to create an original piece of artwork that no one can take,” she said. “But the underlying theme of it was completely and utterly defining my body for what it is at the same time sacrificing it. You know, giving it to the world.”
Gore said she spends up to 10 hours a day painting and drinking “way too much” coffee.
“A lot of everything is a tangible manifesto of anxiety and procrastination,” Gore said. “I think about how snakes are just tails with faces. I’m very much a loner. I don’t have a lot of friends. That’s a good thing, trust me.”
“Make America Great Again” is up for sale, and is currently valued at $1 million. Gore plans to donate part of the money to a homeless youth foundation.
Gore said she doesn’t create art for money or attention.
“What I believe in is making better and better art and that’s all I want to do.”